My family just got a new kitten. My wife loves kittens so we have had a cat (or two) most of our married life. My daughters also love kittens. They laugh, giggle, “ooh,” and “aww” as the cats play or snuggle up. I don’t tell them, but I kind of like cats too. I don’t “ooh” and “aww” or sit around watching them play; but it is relaxing to pet a cat and listen to him purr. Actually, owning a pet of any kind brings great benefit to your family. Let me share a few.
- Pet ownership actually has medical benefits for your family. University of Pennsylvania conducted a study showing that owning a pet had benefits similar to health-promoting behaviors like eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and having close ties with family and friends for those with heart disease. Other studies have shown that petting a dog or cat lowers blood pressure. One study showed that 5- to 11-year-olds who had a pet in the home took fewer sick days off school. And children who had a pet in the home during their first year of life had fewer allergies and less asthma when they were between 7-13 years old. Pet owners also live longer. (Read more about these benefits in Medical Self-Care: Health Benefits of Pet Ownership)
- Pet ownership reduces stress. Whether you watch a cat chase a red dot, receive a rambunctious welcome from your puppy, or simply watch fish in an aquarium, pets help us laugh and relax.
- Pet ownership teaches responsibility. Your children can have the chore of feeding, scooping, cleaning, or bathing. They learn responsibility by taking ownership of such a meaningful chore, a chore that promotes life and relationship. You can also participate in these jobs with them to enhance your own parent-child relationship.
- Pet ownership promotes learning. It may seem strange, but you have seen it if you have pets-your child sitting with their pet curled up beside them reading a book or doing homework. A pet offers a non-judgmental ear for children’s learning. In one study, children who owned dogs were given the choice of reading with a peer, an adult, or their pet dog. Forty percent chose to read with their dog. They felt most relaxed practicing this skill with their pet. (Learn more about how pets help kids learn at The Benefits of Pets).
- Pet ownership can provide comfort to family members. One study asked children what they would give less popular children to help them make friends. The number one answer: a pet! Pets teach us how to show empathy. They also provide a great starting point for relationship, a common ground to talk about with many other children. Another study asked a group of five-year-old pet owners what they did when they felt sad, angry, or afraid. Forty percent mentioned their pets. Pets provided them comfort, a non-judgmental ear, and affection when they needed it. I have met several children who note they feel safer at home with a pet to keep them company or a dog to offer extra protection.
- Pet ownership increases family bonding and fun. Families come together to share in grooming, feeding, walking, and cleaning pets. They play together with their pets. They watch them together, laughing at “pet antics.” In one instance, 70% of families surveyed reported an increase in family happiness and fun after acquiring a pet. In a study of one hundred children 13 years old or younger, 80% of those who owned cats got along better with friends and family. (For more on these and other benefits read The Positive Effects of Pet Ownership for Kids).
- Pet ownership encourages everyone’s ability to care for others. Caring for a pet can plant the seeds of compassion. In particular, caring for a pet allows boys the opportunity to engage in a caring activity that does not appear “too girly.”
There you have it-7 benefits of pet ownership for your family…and mine. I admit it. I enjoy our cats. Perhaps these two quotes sum up the benefits of pet ownership. I hope you like them.
“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to get home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.” (John Grogan, Marley and Me)
“Pets devour loneliness. They give us purpose, responsibility, a reason for getting up in the morning, and a reason to look to the future.” (Nick Trout, Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon)